Sentient Being Are Innumerable, I Vow to Save Them All By Rev. Teinyo Kunugi

At Jorinji temple a SEGAKI memorial service is being held each month. The names of the spirits that one wishes to memorialize are written on a toba and memorialized.

This March 11 is the eighth year since the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake. More than twenty thousand people had lost their precious lives. At the March service of Jorinji, a toba was made for the spirits and the trueheartedness of the memorial service was offered to them. Rev. Kunugi’s son, Rev. Teigyo Kunugi, had the followers of Mt. Shichimen write paper toba for those who died in the earthquake. As many as thirty-thousand tobas were written. These paper tobas were memorialized for one year, they were burned, the ash was burned and a large wooden toba was erected as a memorial tower. I believe that the many people, who perished in the earthquake, must be extremely grateful for this.

Sentient Beings Are Innumerable, I Vow to Save Them All

At the end of a service or practice the Four Great Vows are always recited. This is a vow of a follower of Buddhism and all sects of Buddhism recite this and make this vow. The first of these infinitely great vows is “sentient beings are innumerable, I vow to save them all.” Among the four vows, this first vow is the practice of benefiting others and the training to work for the sake of another.

The sentient beings are not only people. They are all living beings. This is not those who are alive on earth. Those who are deceased have lost their physical body but their soul is alive. Since both the living and the dead are sentient beings, those who have died in natural disasters, wars, terroristic attacks and so on are also sentient beings. This extraordinarily great vow of saving countless and infinite sentient beings is the first vow that we Buddhists are assigned. What does “save” mean? To “save” means to have them become the Buddha.

Since the realm of the Buddha is a happy realm of rejoicing, to have people become happy is to save them.

The people that died in the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, whom the SEGAKI memorial service was held, must surely be accepting our memorial service with feelings of joy. This is truly the practice of the great vow “sentient beings are innumerable, I vow to save them all.” Since this is also our joy, we have also accumulated great merit.

The Buddha Causes the Minds of the Sentient Beings to Rejoice

When the famous Zen Master Mumon Yamada Roshi was lecturing, a young man asked: “Roshi, while you often speak about the real self, what kind of self is the real self?” The Zen Master answered: “Try to work with your whole heart for the sake of another. Then if you feel a sense of satisfaction from the bottom of your heart for having done so, that satisfaction is your real self.”

I was moved by this reply of the Zen Master. I felt that what he said is indeed true. I was impressed by how he explained the difficult concept of the real self in simple and easy to understand words. If we are of service to people and society with heart and soul, the person we have served will say thank you and worship us. I felt that the person who is worshiped is truly the real self.

In the Expedient chapter of the Lotus Sutra, it is taught that the Buddha causes the minds of the sentient beings to rejoice. To become one with the Buddha is the real self and that is save the sentient beings.


By Rev. Teinyo Kunugi

Translated by Mr. Dean Makinodan


衆生無辺誓願度 人のために尽くす